Carriageworks announces new First Nations Program 25 Aug 2022

Carriageworks, one of Australia’s most significant contemporary multi-arts organisations, today announced the launch of the First Nations Program which takes place throughout the rest of 2022, signalling an ambitious sea change for the organisation. Under the leadership of the first Director of First Nations Programs, Jacob Boehme (Narangga/Kaurna), Carriageworks is undergoing a renewal that is embedding First Nations governance and cultural perspectives at the heart of the organisation. In 2022, Carriageworks presents PARTY | PROTEST | REMEMBER, a dynamic, new multi-arts program that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the founding of the National Black Theatre. In 1972 a group of dedicated Aboriginal activists came together on the streets of Redfern to create change. They created Redfern’s first self-determined Aboriginal theatre company alongside the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

Director, First Nations Programs Jacob Boehme said: “2022 is a hugely important year of celebration for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contemporary arts and politics in Australia as it marks the 50th anniversary of the National Black Theatre and the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. It also marks 35 years since the formation of a Royal Commission to investigate the causes of deaths of Aboriginal people, 30 years since the Mabo decision and five years since the Uluru Statement from the Heart was established. We want to honour this with a free and inclusive program that invites the community to gather to remember and celebrate these significant moments in history. This program, and the planting of the First Nations Garden, brings First Nations stories and culture to the heart of Carriageworks.”

PARTY | PROTEST | REMEMBER is three separate yet interconnected events that honour the founders and legacies of First Nations contemporary theatre, dance and politics, and looks to the future of First Nations Arts and Cultural Practices in Australia and beyond.

Starting with PROTEST on 22 September, Carriageworks will present a citizen’s assembly style forum led by author and Uluru Statement from the Heart campaigner Thomas Mayor. This community event will focus on The Referendum Council’s call for a constitutionally entrenched First Nations Voice to Parliament through the Uluru Statement from the Heart, giving the community the opportunity to discuss why we do/don’t need a First Nations Voice to Parliament and what it means to us all.

On 6 October, Carriageworks will present REMEMBER, a free screening of Darlene Johnson’s The Redfern Story, a documentary that follows the efforts of this historic group who brought the cause of First Nations peoples to public notice through activism and theatre, as a first step towards gaining land rights and better treatment. The screening will be accompanied by a panel discussion led by acclaimed Actor and Director Shari Sebbens to dream the next 50 years of Blak Theatre.

For PARTY on 12 November, Carriageworks will be taken over for a free, precinct-wide, all ages celebration of First Nations’ live music, performance, drag and digital arts. Three stages will be set up throughout the precinct, with a drag and disco stage hosted by First Nations drag icon Nana Miss Koori, a stage dedicated to artists from the Solid Ground program curated by choreographer Neville Williams-Boney, and an experimental music stage curated by Carriageworks resident company Moogahlin Performing Arts. There will also be a dedicated making space where visitors will be invited to gather and join weaving circles, as well as music from DJ Benny Gold playing throughout the evening. The full program will be announced in early October.

After two near sell-out online editions, SOUTHEAST Aboriginal Arts Market returns from 19 – 20 November, for its first physical edition since 2019. Curated by Hetti Perkins (Arrernte/Kalkadoon) and Jonathan Jones (Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi), SOUTHEAST celebrates the rich cultural inheritance and contemporary artistic expression of Aboriginal artists and practitioners of the south-east region of Australia. This year, the market brings together more than 30 independent Aboriginal artists and collectives with over 250 artworks for sale across ceramics, jewellery, weaving, carving, textiles, photography, painting and prints, with 100% of proceeds going directly to the artists. The full program will be announced on 10 October.

Carriageworks is also home to a new First Nations Garden which was planted by local Elders from Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care and children from Redfern Jarjum College. Each month, they come together with Carriageworks First Nations Fellowship recipient Henrietta Baird (Kuku Yalandji/Yidinji) to share knowledge and cultivate stronger connections. The garden begins the journey of bringing local plant species home and is the first step towards an ambitious cultural maintenance program, focussing on revival and regeneration of traditional language, song and dance from clan groups across the Sydney basin. The garden has been created in collaboration with First Nations cultural landscape and design companies, Imbue Studios and Open Life Designs

Carriageworks CEO Blair French said: “The 2022 First Nations Program strengthens Carriageworks’ commitment to First Nations arts practices, culture and perspectives. This signals an exciting start of implementing First Nations governance throughout all levels of our organisation. We are thrilled to celebrate First Nations creativity and history across a diverse range of artforms. Our local area is an important site for First Nations ceremony, politics, arts and history and we look forward to continuing to deepen our local community relationships.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies is a Major Partner of Carriageworks and proudly supports the 2022 First Nations Program. The support builds on Bloomberg’s broader work around Reconciliation in Australia to support and actively progress efforts to create an Australia that is fair, equal, and values the communities, histories and contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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ABOUT JACOB BOEHME, DIRECTOR, FIRST NATIONS PROGRAMS: A graduate of NAISDA and of the Victorian College of the Arts, and an alumnus of the British Council and Australia Council ACCELERATE Indigenous Leaders Program, Jacob has more than 20 years’ experience as a performer, choreographer, writer, producer and artistic director, as well as a long history of teaching in different contexts, and is currently within the cultural leadership program at NIDA. He was the founding Creative Director of Yirramboi Festival, City of Melbourne 2016-2019 and is currently artistic director for the Wild Dog project through Country Arts SA and Art Gallery of South Australia, premiering at the upcoming Tarnanthi Festival. Jacob’s solo work Blood on the Dance Floor received the 2017 Green Room Award Best Independent Production and he was the recipient of the 2018 Australia Council for the Arts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship.

ABOUT CARRIAGEWORKS: Carriageworks is one of Australia’s most renowned and significant contemporary multi-arts organisations. The Carriageworks Artistic and First Nations Programs provide significant support to Australian and international artists through commissioning and presenting contemporary work. Reflecting the diverse communities of urban Sydney, these programs are ambitious and inclusive.

ABOUT SOLID GROUND: Solid Ground provides education, training and employment pathways for Indigenous Australian youth in Redfern, Waterloo and Blacktown. Established in 2015, it is a major initiative from Carriageworks and Blacktown Arts Centre. The program includes three key strands: an Artist-In-Residence Program at select secondary schools, a Tertiary Skills Program and Paid Internships.

ABOUT MOOGAHLIN PERFORMING ARTS: Moogahlin Performing Arts is a leading NSW First Peoples performing arts company. Moogahlin develops, produces, and presents new work, is strongly connected to community, and is committed to nurturing multiple generations of First Peoples arts practitioners locally, nationally, and internationally. Moogahlin was formed in Redfern, New South Wales in 2007 in honour of the late Kevin Smith’s request and in memory of the founding members of the Black Theatre.

ABOUT WYANGA ABORIGINAL AGED CARE: Wyanga is a not-for-profit Aboriginal organisation dedicated to providing individually tailored and culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander Elders within their homes and communities. Their vision is to strive for excellence and best practice in the provision of culturally appropriate services and quality care for our Elders in their own home and in the community. Wyanga services Sydney communities across the East, Inner West, and West Sydney regions.

ABOUT REDFERN JARJUM COLLEGE: Redfern Jarjum College’s mission is to educate, empower and support urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and provide expert guidance to alleviate their educational, social, emotional, behavioural and health disadvantages. We prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and partnership.